With the re-release of Farflung’s 1995 classic 25.000 Feet Per Second only last year it seems like Farflung has not been off our collective radars for a while, but in fact their last outing This Capsule was released over four years ago! Four years in which a lot can happen, like a freaking pandemic! Luckily our four spacemen can travel space and time, and will not be held back by distance or time. Even with lyricist and guitarist Michael Esther living on another continent (Europe) and the rest of the band in Los Angeles, USA Farflung kept on writing and recording. The result is no joke! Like Drones In Honey feels in everything like a full band operating with all engines running full speed. There is Hawkwind worshipping space rock madness, there is postpunk tripping, there are full blown weirdo experiments fueled by nightly escapades in the Californian desert…in other words, not much has changed.
But hey! Why take my word for it when you can have the full band explaining what is going on in your ears when you are listening to the new album? Tommy Grenas, Michael Esther, Paul Hischier, and Chris Nakata were kind enough to spend some time describing their thoughts on the writing process, and ultimately on taking a full blown walk through the album. So buckle up, it’s going to be a spacey ride…
Hi guys! First of all: how are you and how have you been since last time we spoke? (at the re-release of 25.000 ft per second LP in January this year).
Paul: Hi there. Things have calmed down after turbulent times; the pandemic, the death of my father, collapsing relationships, but those struggles have passed. Now it’s mellow vibes on the West Side. We did an interview the other day and it wasn’t until I saw the other guy’s faces that I realized how much I miss seeing my Farflung brothers. We were so happy to see each other! I’m pleased that Like Drones in Honey has officially released. Stoked to be on Sulatron!!! Dave rules!!
Michael: Things are ok here. Not much has changed…working on the music and art… hoping for more positivity in the world…
Tommy: Things have been good. I ‘we’ve’ been very happy working with Dave at Sulatron, and the releases that have come out so far. I was glad to do it, and with all the guys to come up with the concept and artwork for the new lp , and the groups overall construction on the mixes and vibe of it all. There’s new things on the back burner and ideas are already starting to formulate. There were also a couple of interesting sessions out at Saturn Moon (Nakata’s studio in Yukka valley] and I’ve been working on ideas out here in Woodstock, NY. I hope to get out to the desert to see Chris and Paul soon to continue with things. Out here in the Catskills, NY, things slow way down in winter, so I’ve been taking Jobs here and there to prep for it. This is quite a contrast to the Covid shutdown of the recent past. I’ve also been working with a local cinema, and record store, putting on events that are live music to film, or visual to music also. We’ve had some great artists involved and it’s been a great experience. I also built a small print shop and have been making posters and shirts, sleeves, for the event, and other things. Yes, been a quite busy year so far.
The new album has been finished for quite a while, right? Can you tell me about the writing and recording process
Paul: From my angle the process was, and the product is, pure ecstasy in the Greek meaning: “entrancement, astonishment, insanity; any displacement or removal from the proper place”. The time of recording this LP is the most free that I have ever felt making a record. 100% the process for me was to disassociate from the pandemic and it’s ripple effects. To me (us?) it’s sculpture and collage, improv avant-freedom-rock, no boundaries. We create & capture everything; the deeply psychedelic and confrontational, the perfect and the sublime, the incorrect and the wrong. Add in existential void screaming, found sound, field recordings, then exploit our limitations, then add in a dash of kosmische moon howling. Reverse everything and start over.
Michael: It’s different than it was years ago…seeing that we are spread across the globe… from my side… the difficult thing is and the thing I miss most is all of us being in the studio at the same time…. we trade track ideas and overdubs back and forth via the internet and Chris does his magic…
Tommy: Well this will be a long answer, but ~Most of it started at Tarantula Ranch [my wife Abby Travis’s old studio in Los Angeles]. It was an interesting time. We ‘were already prepping to pull up anchor and leave that city. Abby was on tour and the studio was basically 3/4 gutted of stuff for the move. All that remained was faulty equipment, pieces of drum kits, stuff too sell, low grade amps and dodgy synth gear. Chris had a mobile pro tools unit he would slung around to jam sessions, and brought it over and set it up. We had no planning, just, let’s try to use what’s here and if it’s crappy sounding well so be it. It turned out to be quite the challenge and totally rewarding. Chris basically duct taped and bolted a kit together using what was around into a rather strange set. He also just set up things to hit that would give off sound. Me and Paul chained our gear together and experimented with the tweaky ramshackle amps to get tones. Between what was glitchy and operating, and with the rather bizarre keyboard selection Chris had at Saturn Moon, I created the synth pad arena. Last but not least, Skott Rusch, old time Farflung, when science fails guitar psych-scaper, showed up with the wired out troglodonic noisemaker, and generators amongst everything else. Mean while in Italy Michael was conjuring strange worlds and patterns at his mobile unit, that would be transmitted to our radar station of sorts. I think this all started around may of 2019. It certainly was not an album session as many of Farflung’s were, but just another field of experimentation. Sessions were whoosey, and magical. It seemed like we’re we’re on another off charts adventure with the band. Sonically, it was an experimentation on a new level for me. I’d like to think Farflung has never been a slave to a genre, even though sometimes we’ve been pigeonholed to it by certain folk, but that’s ok. Whatever there pleasure is. We have never been interested in trends or tags, and this compendium of tracks is clear of that on this lp. Coincidentally, Chris was living in Los Angeles, and that is where the original Saturn Moon was. I’ve spoken about that wonderful lab before, but Chris also pulled up anchor, and found a place to set up studio in Yucca valley . It was a bit later, but we got together and started to flesh out the tracks more into song there. I did not bring any gear really, Just used what Chris had there. We were also joined by Bobby Lee [moso groto] who had played a bit on the original sessions. He put down some great low and driving stuff on a couple of the tracks, and he’s an all all round swell guy. After some long walks in the desert and “stimulation” later, we were laying down the vocals and finishing touches to the tracks from Mike’s emu3 in Italy, and the Los Angeles, and Yucca sessions . We Mixed remotely, but had a good idea of what it should be like. Chris doing most of the honors on that end.
Can you both tell me your favorite thing about the album and why?
Tommy: To me it’s a natural continuation of This Capsule, the previous LP. It felt like it should be. It does go off in its own tangent here and there but they still seem related. The same is reflected in the look and artwork continued in a more sparse and forward visual. We have also become tighter with friends and family. Everyone put a lot into it and I can feel it. I sure the next one will be quite different, but for now this is still the focus. My favorite tracks are King Fright and Tiny Cities [best section is the end of side one, where it really levitates to me.] it’s in the sound on there very clear. I don’t think anyone who has followed what we do will not see that’s but essentially, we [I] also do it for ourselves own goal.
Paul: My favorite thing about the album is the journey. I prefer to listen to the whole LP in a sitting with headphones. Like when I was a kid listening to LPs, hyper focused on every detail. It’s a love letter to decay and collapse from wizened survivors.
What can you tell me about the title Like Drones To Honey?
Michael: We were tossing ideas around and this one worked… I like the open reading possibility of the word drone…(a bee, a sound, a flying device). I think about recording in terms of layers of sound… of ideas that come together and arrive at a song, then a group of songs, then album artwork that solidifies into an object.. sonic and physical…Bees carrying pollen flower to flower…Honey as residue… similar to the way in which ideas float person to person…thought as a productive function of the body…a type of secretion……all these types of things I’ve been fascinated with for years…. it just worked for this album
Tommy: I think Michael came up with it. There was a photo of a woman laughing in a garden by photographer Peter Graham we were going to use, but I don’t think it was in a place were the label were too excited about it. I ended up making collages around the title. It was a lot of fun and I like doing things by hand and not on a computer. I liked the triple meaning of the LP title, a kind of calvertesque sci fi vibe to it. Drunken workers floating in the mead, mind bombs gliding without fuel, the sound of open chords together, something like that.
Paul: We started it in May 2019 without a hint of what would happen 6 months later. At that point we were personally undergoing a ton of changes; Chris moving out of LA to the desert, Tommy moving to Woodstock after living in LA for so many years, and I had just moved back here after living overseas for a long time. Mikey had a lot going on in Italy. A lot of major changes with us were already underway. A good portion of the music was recorded during the height of the pandemic, so there was a lot of strange feelings happening all around us, which the music captures. A lot of fear/uncertainty/doubt permeating the atmosphere. The music and the rituals around the music making were a bright spot during that period, but it was very dark and isolating time for everyone. Like Drones in Honey was a coping mechanism for me (us?).
On to the walkthrough: let’s go through all the songs of the album and their meaning:
- Acid Drain
Tommy: Lyrically, someone I knew had passed away from dementia, and did not receive much needed help. She left a great sweetness behind her in her past, so both things colliding there a bit. Musically, a little nod to Can, but definitely also one of my favorite movies, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, all those ominous melodies creating a weird score. That was the first track recoded We believe. Paul’s Pro One making fuzzy bass freak outs on the chorus, and lots of vocal mayhem.
Perfect start “klingggg”
3 tix to CS
Tremmmy guitars and pings, such a swirl happening
Gut punches and screams
A rich tapestry of tones, zones zones zones zones zones zones zones
Chris: Yes, this was the first track we recorded. I remember familiarizing myself with the drums, and liking them. Tommy was excited by the sound from the start. That was a great way to begin, and pretty much set the tone for much of the album. I can still see Paul, peering at me through the small opening of the hood of his hoodie, zipped up to the top because it was cold in the garage, his wide eyes growing even larger from the massive sound of his synth.
- Earthmen Look Alike To Me
Chris: This one seemed to go down quickly. Just a lot of fun. Tommy could often be seen shaking his butt to this one during playback.
Tommy: Moving to the Catskills forests in autumn was mystical and surreal being in a big city for so long. There was a big male red bull cardinal who would fly into the windows dawn till dusk relentlessly waking us to explore things early, very early. The silence, and sounds of trees and animals that has become normal now. We had discovered weird rock formations on the property that were were told to be paleo Indian. It was magical an foreboding. The title was a working title, and the lyrics came much later, so it just stuck with a quote from and old analog, pulp novel. The musical session was a big jam. I was channeling RCA period Hawkwind a little I think. Then it just goes into Farflung, it reminds me a lot of what a session from us in the 90s would of sounded like.
Sick Casio beat into Uncontrollable Urge acoustic
Super sick turnaround
50 tracks of guitars, or 50,000?
Chrome-esque Helios-y ‘Destroyed My Brain” turnaround is incredible
- King Fright
Tommy: Mike’s original track, overdubbed by the rest of us, then mike back on it again. Lyrically the main thread is Michael. I interpreted it as having an almost Nick Cave vibe to it, but the retort that I vocalized came off rather PIL in a weird way. Political PIL meets Crass ha ha. The sound in the beginning is an old printing rack slamming and creaking with me being, well drunk, blabbering . Chris was percussively playing his whole kitchen on that track.
Another fooking amazing Mikey Surprise
Turns into a face puncher
Then the bells, so many bells, bells and swirls
GREEN HAS LEFT THE BORDER
Chris: Basically, a back-and-forth between Michael and Tommy. A great juxtaposition, and very gratifying to lay down tracks on this.
- Tiny Cities Made Of Broken Teeth
Tommy: I was sitting in an old art warehouse in Woodstock, in the middle of winter looking out into a dead frozen woods surrounded by water. It truly looked like an alien planetscape. I thought about how life almost dies but is dormant, in a dream state we can’t imagine. I was listening to a lot of old dub at the time, and there was a cinematic vibe to the jam. We were a little confused what to do with it, but one night a layering session in the desert just blossomed and we’re were all lying around just spacing on it. It just came to be like that. Two worlds collide, and end with someone standing on a flyover in Los Angeles in the rain. Past future present.
Chris: A very soothing trip. Such a groovy bass from Bobby. In the last section, Tommy hummed the bassline for me to play, and I really liked the orchestral sound of the bass part. Then, Michael sent his parts with such an orchestral approach, fermenting the gentle crescendo that allows for the exhale to end the side.
From where do these seeds sprout?
I’ve hitched my space-steed to the goddamn ring mod on this one
Early Pink Floyd chord progressions
Michael’s slide, perfect as always
The tremolo guitar has so much sustain
The ending is straight off of a LA ’68 Love re-issue
Chris: Honestly, I wasn’t sure where this one was going, but somehow Tommy’s other-worldly mind managed to bring it all together. Originally, a working title (again, from Tommy’s mind) that I insisted on keeping. Resistant at first, Tommy relented after he saw how particular I was about the original spelling and pronunciation.
Tommy: 3 sessions fused into one, but strangely , also recorded in that order. I really love Manuel Göttsching‘s inventions for electric guitar, and it’s funny that, well, I always thought Steve Hillage’s, Rainbow Dome Music LP is also related musically. I got this new guitar pedal thing in the mail, that just happened to sound like that and went for it. Old Farflung luminary Skott Rusch [hunting lodge] just happed to be around and added his trogotronic transmission device to the whole track, levitating it out of orbit. Part two, a little Rudimentary Peni vibe on it. Just a great fun punk moment for us that’s always there. Paul phrased “self cleaning oven” as a way that nature gets rid of an irritating presence on its skin, the rest of the lyrics just ran in. Title ? No idea.
Infinite pings and unceasing pongs
glissando guide master Michael
Chirps, tweets, and sweeps
Jaki Liebezeit beat to the T
Delay 68 Can meets Heldon
With INSANE turnaround after “OKAYYYYY!!!!”
The teeth on that guitar and the drummer, Jesus what a drummer . . .
Sneaky fucker on bass, the balls on that kid performing those sick runs
A SELF CLEANING OVEN – a lack of empathy will destroy us
- Baile an Doire
Tommy: I always thought some surf music sounded kinda Celtic, or euro ethnic. Or maybe it had an influence on it in the 60s, probably the latter, anyhow always loved the rousing element to it. We laid down the track and thought it was also kinda goth sounding. My grandparents some aunts uncles spoke a little Gaelic, and I remembered the pigeon English that would happen after a few drinks behind the piano or even transistor in the kitchen. I was burnt out that day and could not come up with any theme or idea, so I started to run off in that banter. Paul and Chris both loved it, but also we’re amused by it. I decided, why not. the rousing tribal drums almost sound like a battle call and I was reminded of an area where I grew up, where the river crossed into the Lough Neagh through an oak wood. I used to go fishing there. But I was told a site of great turmoil. If you’re up for some history, look it up, Baile an Doire, Ballinderry. Just probably channeling spirits, of sorts.
Chris: My main memory is the night we recorded vocals. As soon as Tommy started singing in this style, we knew it was right. Or was it? Who knows. All I know is that Paul and I couldn’t stop laughing.
Why don’t you try the lyrics in Gælic?”
Turns into a Killing Joke song
Who did the haunting lead?
All of a sudden it is an Echo & The Bunnymen song
Absurdddd-uuu ringgggg-uuuu moddd–uu klannnnggzzz
The forever-ending is too beautiful
- Touch of the Lemmings Kiss
Tommy: Mikes lyrics. Sounded ominous and soothing. Felt like I was lying down in a meadow somewhere, waiting for it to end.
Mikey flying in from a deep and beautiful place to give us his blessings
Dolce piano pianissimo
Goddamn always with the bombers, love it!
Chris: Michael’s tracks were trippy and didn’t need much, really. We just added a few instruments here and there.
- A Year In Japan
Chris: A late-night video-call led to making the background for Tommy’s whispers.
Tommy: Talking birds in the forest one night. I just recorded me speaking back to them after enjoying things I found to eat there. These birds fly to japan in winter. Hope they took my message. I miss Japan a bit. Would like to go there again. Very different.
Beefheart gone wild
Right into a later Wire song
What are your immediate future plans? (hoping for some tours!!!)
Paul: The immediate plan that I want to happen is for all of us to hang out in person again. It’s been far too long. A tour will happen at some point after all the uncertainty dissipates. Until then I’m good to stay in the studio and work on the next batch of songs.
Michael: It would be great to tour. We have to see how things shake out ….
Tommy: Oh boy I don’t know. I’d do it with Sula Bassana or a Dave Sulatron thing. Cosmic minds, for like minds. Good vibes, no neg stuff. We play better when it’s connected. I’m kinda over the random stoner rock night out, and we’re the lemon band not riffing off 3 bars to hard shit. I’m not that into getting sick on the road either. We’ll see. I’d love to travel with my friends, no pressure no worries. We’re a bit older, just don’t want to be away from home and sick. That may not sound very rock n roll, but fuck that shit. I don’t care. Recording stuff can be way too much fun sometimes. Especially with the guys in Yucca valley, and Milan.
What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after reading this interview?
Michael: It’s difficult times these days in the world…I’d say, produce some joy. Think of joy as a transformational act…
Tommy: Do whatever is possible to support the true people to end this global tyranny wherever you are, and also support those who do it. It’s a frightening world, and I’m very concerned for the next generations. There’s no way you can’t be concerned about that. Things have to be better than this.
Paul: Give Like Drones in Honey a spin and ride the cosmic tides. Then head out into nature.